The Beauty of Specialization

Shaq Emmitt

Specialization is a great concept. It allows economies to grow and thrive, and it allows individuals to dive deeply into a certain area of interest. A lot of us want to spend time with (perhaps even date or marry) those who we view as our intellectual peers, and the idea of specialization allows each of us to feel like a subject matter expert in our area of specialty while leaving room for others to shine in their own brilliance.

For instance, last night I was at a birthday party (Grant‘s birthday party, actually), and while the birthday boy was introducing me around, we stopped for a while to talk with his friend James.

James is a tall glass of water – broad-shouldered and well over six foot – with a messy mop of brown hair. At one point, Grant asked James, “Hey, how’s your hand, man?” James produced his hand with a shrug, saying that it was “healing up alright.”

Grant suddenly looked around the group, excited, and asked us, “Hey, can anyone guess how he got this wound?” A couple of the girls glanced at it and answered with a giggle, “A paper cut!” But I took James’ hand in my own and studied it for a moment.

The deep gash looked like a cut, but it was wide and confined to the length of two fingers on the inside of his palm. I glanced down at James’ attire: jeans, boots and a huge belt buckle. I smiled to myself and declared with confidence, “A rope burn.”

Grant and James both looked at me in surprise, eyes bugging out. “Wow! Yeah… you’re right…” Grant could not seem to wrap his mind around the fact that I had identified the wound so quickly, so I shrugged to James and admitted, “I was an EMT during my college years.”

A little while later, I glanced up at the TV screen mounted on the wall, where sports had been airing all night. I recognized one of the four sportscasters, but I couldn’t but a name to his face. He was a large, black man who looked like a former athlete I used to root for, so I leaned over to James and shouted over the noise, “Hey, who’s that sportscaster on the far left?”

James glanced up to the TV for about half a second and said simply, “Shaq.”

“Oh, yeah,” I agreed, nodding. “I knew I recognized him. I was going to say either Shaq or Emmitt Smith.”

My comment was made in all sincerity; I am really that ignorant of professional athletes, but James thought it was so funny that he yelled across the table to Grant. “HA! Did you hear what she just said?!”

James relayed the story to Grant, who laughed and said, “It’s basketball on the TV! Why would you think it was Emmitt Smith?”

I shrugged meekly. I wasn’t trying to be funny; just displaying my sports ignorance for all to see.

When Grant saw my discomfort, his face transformed immediately to one of warmth and affection. “Don’t ever change, Aurora,” he told me with an intensity to his gaze. And he kissed my forehead.

Authentically Aurora

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I, Wisdom

Tree-lined street

Listen as Wisdom calls out! Hear as understanding raises her voice! “I call to you, to all of you! I raise my voice to all people. You simple people, use good judgment. You foolish people, show some understanding. Listen to me! For I have important things to tell you. My advice is wholesome. There is nothing devious or crooked in it. My words are plain to anyone with understanding, clear to those with knowledge. I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment. Common sense and success belong to me. Insight and strength are mine. I love all who love me. Those who search will surely find me. And so, my children, listen to me, for all who follow my ways are joyful. Listen to my instruction and be wise.” –Proverbs 8

After the funeral last week, my 30-year-old cousin JJ wanted to grab coffee with me. It was my birthday and I had plans with Ashley, but JJ seemed like he needed someone to talk to, so off we went.

We’re not close, JJ and I – at least, not in my mind. We have nearly 30 cousins on that side of the family, and I only see most of them twice a year at family gatherings. I didn’t know much about JJ’s recent past other than he went through a divorce two years ago, got out of the military, and had a live-in girlfriend for much of the past year. But JJ told me he’s always felt closer to me than anyone else in our extended family. I’m not sure why that is, but I’m glad for it.

JJ and I got a couple of lattes and walked up and down the historic, tree-lined street of my favorite coffee shop in town. It was a perfect day for both my grandfather’s funeral and my birthday. The morning started out cloudy and overcast; chilly and solemn at the grave site. But after lunch, as we all celebrated at the reception – and later, as I celebrated my birthday – the temperatures warmed and the sun came out, making for a beautiful day.

JJ is a good-looking man. I had a crush on him when I was a small child, in the days before children learn that marrying within the family is generally discouraged. Now a ruggedly handsome firefighter in a small town, he has a way with the ladies, and from what he told me last week, he makes the most of it and then laments that he can’t seem to find a lasting, meaningful relationship. “I end up with women who gorgeous but not very smart. Or women who are just plain crazy.”

When JJ admitted that he tends to get pretty physical on the first date, I suggested that it may be helpful to get to know a girl’s personality, character, thoughts and opinions – to gauge more than just her bust size – before taking her home. I watched the light bulb go off in his eyes. “Huh,” he mused out loud. “I’m thirty years old and have never considered that before.”

I was shocked that he sincerely meant it. I had trouble fathoming that he could go thirty years without ever considering if there was another way to navigate dating. But I was also grateful for the time together, that we could talk through some practical steps of how to put external boundaries in place and prevent the physical chemistry from clouding his judgment when he decides who to pursue a relationship with in the future. 

He was receptive. Teachable. Genuinely curious and interested in learning how to date differently. And I appreciated that. But I chuckled to myself later in the day, wondering if it’s true what they say: That those who can, do…!

Authentically Aurora

P.S. Best talk on dating I’ve ever heard: Dating Part 2: HOW

Death, the Final Frontier

Milky Way from Earth

Few circumstances in life completely stop us in our tracks and make us reevaluate everything we believe. Facing death – whether or own or someone else’s – is one such circumstance. There is so much unknown in death. It is the one true final frontier.

In our twenties, few of us have faced death enough times to have really, seriously mulled over what happens when we die. Those of us with somewhat melancholy personalities may have considered it more than most, but even so, it’s easy to superficially acknowledge that, yes, death is an impending reality, but I know where I’m headed, so I’m fine. We don’t stop to think about the logistics of it all.

My grandfather passed away last week. He was almost ninety years old and had been battling cancer for a while, so his passing was expected. He believed in Jesus Christ, was a pastor for nearly six decades, and was ready to go to heaven. So when his funeral is held later this week – on a day that also happens to be my birthday – it will be a day of celebration, both of my birth and his life.

I have therefore been surprised at myself this week, how much his passing has affected me; how much I have been kept awake at night thinking about death. And life. And resurrection. And eternity.

As a Christian who believes that my sin separates me from God, but my faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection on my behalf makes me righteous before God, I know that I am going to be raised to eternal life in heaven when I die. But there are so many knowledge gaps in the process of being raised from death to life.

But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain… What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body... I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” -1 Cor. 15

I say it again: There are so many knowledge gaps in the process of being raised from death to life! What happens at the moment of death? Will my spirit rise out of my physical body and go immediately to heaven? Is there a waiting period, where my soul rests in unconsciousness until the Last Day, when Jesus comes again?

What happens when I stand before the Throne of God? There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, but I will still have to give an account of my life; an accounting for the way I’ve lived. I may not face the White Throne judgement, but “we will all stand before the Judgment Seat of God… and each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:10).

That. Is. Terrifying.

Imagining that moment of standing before God and giving an account of my life? It terrifies me. And I know that God loves me unconditionally! But to stand in the presence of utter Holiness and Righteousness, of Omnipotence and Omniscience… it makes my heart quake to even begin to imagine that moment. Yes, my sins are covered by the sacrifice of Christ, but will there be a moment where I see the wrath of God before Jesus steps in as Mediator?

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. -Heb. 4:15-16

Perhaps this is a healthy fear. A reverence. A sense of awe and wonder and respect that we lose all too easily this side of heaven. There will be a reckoning for the way we’ve lived. Our deeds, good and bad, do not earn us heaven or keep us out (faith alone can do that), but we will answer for them before God, and be rewarded accordingly (Rev. 22:12).

As a child, I never understood why my mom used to always quote Matthew 25. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me to, at the end, hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” But today I understand. That’s all I could ask for. That is my hope – to hear from my Lord, my King, my God, “Well done, good and faithful servant… Enter into the joy of your master.”

 “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” -Rev. 22:17

Authentically Aurora

“That Person”

I was just “that person.”

There are lots of versions of “that person”, like that person who picks their nose in rush hour traffic. And that person who takes the last chocolate chip cookie at a party. And that person who asks you why you’re not married (don’t be that person, especially the week of Valentine’s Day).

I was just “that person” who hears a playful comment from someone else and throws back a serious, depressing, I’m-offended response that makes the other person feel terrible about themselves.

Cruise ship…I wrote that intro last week as I was getting ready to go on my weekend cruise to the Bahamas. I didn’t have time to finish the post, what with last-minute packing of pink bikinis and whatnot, but here’s what happened.

In preparation for vacation, I tried to check in online, but I kept getting an error message from the cruise line’s website. I tried checking in on Sunday. And Monday. And Tuesday. Finally, on Wednesday, I conceded that I was going to have to call and talk to an actual human being. I hate talking to actual human beings.

When John the Cruise Concierge picked up the phone, I explained that I was going on 4-day cruise and was having difficulty with my booking. He talked me through all the usual online troubleshooting scripts, until we finally realized that Marina – the friend who’d booked the cruise for our group – had entered my birthday wrong (incorrect month, day AND year), so my passport number wasn’t being validated.

When John and I realized that my friend Marina had entered my birthday wrong, he joked over the phone, “She doesn’t know your birthday? Are you sure she’s really your friend?”

I knew he was kidding, but I was sensitive to his comment partially because I was stressed out about not being able to check in, partially because I was afraid he was going to think I was a fraud and wouldn’t help me, and partially because I already felt a bit odd about the cruise due to a lack of closeness between Marina and myself.

Marina was my fitness instructor about five years ago. We never really talked outside of quick small talk before and after the workout class. We did go out to dinner a couple of times in the past few years, but we don’t really know each other very well, so I was surprised when she asked me to celebrate her 32nd birthday with her by going on a cruise together.

I’m not sure how many people she asked, but only three of us were going on the cruise – Marina and some girl Verna who I’d never met before. Verna is a 40-something mother of three, and the reason Marina reached out to “the girls” to celebrate her birthday is that she’s getting ready to file for divorce from her husband of eight years. Not exactly the posse I imagine when I envision a Bahamas cruise with my girlfriends. 

Unfortunately for John the Cruise Concierge, I explained all of this to him in a very long run-on sentence. “I’m not surprised she doesn’t know my birthday – I mean, we don’t really know each other; we were just in a fitness class together, and she was trying to find girl friends to go on this cruise with her because it’s her thirty-second birthday, and she wants to celebrate her birthday but not with her husband because she’s about to file for divorce even though they’ve been married for eight years and have a two-year-old daughter, and I guess she doesn’t have a lot of girl friends since she’s been focused on trying to fix her marriage and raise her daughter, so she ended up asking me – a single twenty-something – and the other woman going is a mom in her forties, so it’s going to be an interesting group with me and two moms, and you’re right; I guess we’re not that great of friends after all.”

There was a long, uncomfortable silence before I heard John whisper meekly, “I am so sorry.”

Now poor John the Cruise Concierge feels terribly about himself and is going to go home and drink a lot of alcohol and need to go on a cruise himself to recover from the conversation I just thrust upon him with my anxiety, social awkwardness and blunt delivery. Sorry, John the Concierge. I was just “that person.” 

Authentically Aurora

The Power of Positivity

Chris BdayThis year on my birthday, I woke up in a great mood. I’m pretty sure I said out loud to myself in a quirky voice, “It’s my BIRTHDAY!” And I might possibly have said it again multiple times throughout the day. To myself. In the mirror. With a big, goofy grin.

I was blessed to grow up in a family where birthdays were a day of being celebrated; of loved ones letting me know just how much I was loved. So, for me, “It’s my BIRTHDAY!” was a constant reminder that this particular day was a day where I was loved, cherished and celebrated by the people in my life who matter most.

And that statement I spoke over myself, with all the emotions accompanying it, made my birthday a pretty fantastic day. Even though I had to work, got stuck in traffic, made last-minute lunch plans so I didn’t eat alone on my birthday, found out Bryan forgot it was my birthday, etc… I had a great day because I had already decided it was intrinsically a great day, just by nature of it being my birthday.

I think there was a lot of power in my mindset on my birthday this year. It pains me to say it, because obnoxiously positive people make me want to punch them in the face simply because of the toxicity of their sunny dispositions, but I would love to figure out how to convince myself every day that it is a great day.

It would probably help if every other day out of the year, I was getting flowers at work and chocolates in the mail. It would probably also help if the inherent fabric of my being was not so akin to April Ludgate.

April 3

April 1

April 2

But seriously. What phrases could I substitute for, “It’s my BIRTHDAY!”? What statements could I speak over myself every day?

Maybe… There is a plan for today. This day was written before time began (even the awful parts).

Or… Today, I am loved and celebrated (even if no one sends me chocolate).

Or perhaps… There are good works prepared beforehand for me to live out today (hopefully I don’t fail).

I’ll work on getting rid of the subtext. Baby steps.

Authentically Aurora

Telephone Pictionary

Girls NightIf it’s been too long since you’ve laughed so hard you cried, it might be time for a round of Telephone Pictionary.

For the uninitiated, Telephone Pictionary is a game with no objective (which I usually hate), no winners (or everyone is a winner – lame) and very flexible rules (something that normally results in eye twitching for me). But it’s a pretty fantastic game with the right group of people. And this weekend, we had the RIGHT GROUP OF PEOPLE!

To celebrate my birthday, all of my closest girl friends got together for dinner and game night. Jo Ann was sweet enough to host at her house, and instead of baking me a cake, she baked cupcakes and sugar cookies for us to decorate, catering to my artistic nature (so sweet)!

Melanie, Bethany and Ashley were all there, too, along with several other friends from various parts of my life. It’s always interesting when different circles collide. In this instance, the results were absolutely hilarious.

Telephone Pictionary Rules: Essentially, everyone starts with a stack of paper and a pen. Each person writes a word or phrase on their stop sheet of paper; then the group will simultaneously pass their stack clockwise. The next person reads the word or phrase on the stack of paper, moves the top sheet to the back, and draws a picture that represents the initial word or phrase. The group will continue this pattern, alternating words and pictures, until the stack gets back to the original owner, who will then share (with uproarious laughter) the way the message got derailed as it made its way around the circle.

With friends from work and church, engineers and artists, thirty-something moms and girls in their early twenties, the communication breakdown in nearly every round of Telephone Pictionary made us laugh so hard we cried. Enjoy my personal favorite:

Bday1

Bday2

Bday3

Bonus: During our final round, someone wrote about my upcoming sailing trip with Bryan. This might be the best picture ever:

Bday4

Hopefully it doesn’t come true. Becoming shark bait isn’t on my bucket list of thirty things to do before I turn thirty. ❤

Authentically Aurora

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

the-very-inspiring-blogger-awardIf there was one word I’d hope would be used to describe me, “inspiring” is definitely in the Top 5, along with words in the vein of godly, loving and Christlike. So it is with great honor that I accept Mrs. Spike’s nomination for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

Mrs. Spike is a wonderfully inspiring woman herself and someone who is quickly becoming more than just a fellow blogger but – dare I say it? – a real friend. She truly is in the business of “keeping the blogisphere a beautiful place” – a sentiment that is at the heart of this award. So thanks, Mrs. Spike, for recognizing me as a fellow source of inspiration!

7 Facts About Me:

  1. I have been to all 50 states in the U.S., and North Dakota was the last one visited – an unregrettable choice (sorry, Mom).
  2. I worked as a volunteer EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) in college. I’m really glad I had the experience… and really glad it’s not what I do for a living.
  3. I am in a swing dancing society and have been for seven years. Lindy Hop is my favorite!
  4. My favorite Ninja Turtle has always been Donatello. Smart and purple? Yes, please.
  5. I just bought a new car last month – a BMW 328i Sport. Prior to that, I was still driving my high school vehicle. Yay practicality.
  6. I am currently calorie counting. And it stinks. On the upside, I have finally developed a taste for 100-calorie tall nonfat lattes over my usual 290 calorie (and 28g of sugar) tall mocha.
  7. It’s officially my birthday month. BOOM.

And My Nominees for the VIBA (all rock stars!):

  1. Rambling Abby
  2. A Sheep’s Life
  3. Glam and Grace
  4. So What
  5. Truth Warrior
  6. My Heart Will Sing No Other Name
  7. My Little Piece of Quiet

The Rules

  • Post the award on your blog
  • Thank your nominator because they’re awesome
  • List 7 facts about yourself
  • Nominate 15 other blogs for their awesomeness (I did 7)
  • Post the rules so people know them

Authentically Aurora